Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Extra kickers find no quarter in AFC East
By Tim Graham
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There's a movement afoot.
One kicker, one punter. No need to bring anybody else to training camp.
It used to be common for teams to have extra kickers even if they knew who would win the jobs. Competition kept the regulars sharp and made sure their legs didn't get worn out by special-teams drills.
But none of the four AFC East teams has brought in another kicker, and only one has two punters on its 80-man roster.
Steve Weatherford and T.J. Conley are taking turns at punter for the New York Jets. Their kicker, Nick Folk, might be the most disturbing case of all, but he's alone on the depth chart.
The Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots have their two swinging legs, and they're sticking to them in camp.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said Tuesday some teams don't want to waste a spot on the 80-man camp roster.
"It's probably a combination of just managing the roster," Caserio said, "keeping that roster spot available in the event that there is another position player or somebody else out there that you want to add to your club."
If a kicker or punter is occupying a spot, then there's less room to accommodate a banged-up player or a more important position where competition is needed. There also are cases like unsigned guard Logan Mankins, who hasn't reported to camp but is on the roster.
But the Patriots have seen some shakiness in camp the past couple of days. Stephen Gostkowski, an All-Pro kicker two seasons ago, appears to have a hook in his attempts lately and has been missing more than his fair share. Rookie punter Zoltan Mesko has a booming leg, but has shown he's erratic. Every third or fourth punt looks like a wobbler or a shank.
I asked Caserio about extra legs in camp keeping the regulars honest.
"They have to go out there and perform," Caserio said. "We're going to evaluate it on a day-to-day basis, and if there is a point in time where we say 'OK, we feel we need to have somebody else in here or bring somebody else into the mix,' then we'll go ahead and do that.
"Nobody is guaranteed anything. Obviously, their performance is going to speak volumes about whatever position they play. We evaluate that like we do any position on a day-to-day basis and we will continue to do that."